Special excerpt from the May/June 2020 edition of the FJA Journal by Andrew A. Harris and Bard D. Rockenbach, Burlington…
By Paul Jess, Executive Director, Florida Justice Association
The 2018 Legislative Session was even more tumultuous than usual and proved once again why all of us who seek justice need to be personally involved in local and state politics.
The session started with scandals. Legislators who would be in powerful positions suddenly resigned. Near the end of the session, the tragedy of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre threw the session into chaos as new gun control bills were filed and gun control advocates and National Rifle Association gun rights’ supporters rallied and protested.
Our Florida Justice Association team was disappointed that the Florida Senate did not join the Florida House in passing responsibility-based auto insurance reform to require liability insurance.
The Senate defenders of the current system sided with protecting the status quo that allows insurance companies to continue to raise rates on a product that is worth less every year.
With 48 states requiring that drivers carry bodily injury liability coverage, FJA believes it’s only a matter of time before Florida abandons the current out-of-date system.
The Senate also dashed the hopes of human trafficking survivors who wanted to bring accountability to hotels and motels that willfully ignore the crime.
The move to support the hospitality industry over human trafficking survivors came despite evidence presented to the Senate of how Florida’s hotels and motels are a prime location for human trafficking in the state.
Responsibility-based auto insurance reform and anti-human trafficking may be dead for 2018, but the fight will continue. Legislative leaders who support both these issues will return to Tallahassee next year. if we do our work in this election cycle.
In the final analysis, however, the 2018 session was a successful one because no major anti-justice, anti-consumer legislation passed.
The Senate stopped a draconian insurance industry inspired workers’ compensation bill that passed the House. Likewise, the Senate also killed a nonsensical bill regarding the Assignment of Benefits (AOB) issue passed the house but was killed in the senate. Although a reasonable senate bill to address the AOB issue got some traction, apparently, the insurance corporations are more interested in complaining about the issue instead of solving the problem, and the bill died.
We expect both workers’ compensation and AOB issues to return next year in the 2019 session.
Our lobby team raised considerable red flags about a bad mediation bill that a House committee postponed considering it, killing it for the session.
In the Senate, the Banking and Insurance Committee killed legislation to allow an insurer to exclude a driver from being covered under the household’s auto insurance policy.
FJA arguments convinced a Senator to keep a bad attorney fee provision out of a large, omnibus insurance bill.
While lawmakers were in Tallahassee, the Constitution Revision Commission also held meetings to decide which issues it will put on the November ballot. We were successful in defeating a proposal to gut the Patient’s Right to Know about Adverse Medical Incidents constitutional provision that most of us still call “Amendment 7.”
We want to thank all of the members who came to Tallahassee to help our lobby team this session and all who turned out at the public hearings of the Constitution Revision Commission. FJA members came from across the state and that makes a real difference when lawmakers see familiar faces and know people are paying attention at home.
As the legislative battle ends, another battle begins. Each of us needs to be personally involved in politics, especially now, especially this election cycle.
This August and November we will select the next governor. The next governor will appoint at least three new Florida Supreme Court Justices, as well as many other judges.
There will be many open and contested seats in the Florida Legislature. We must elect friends of justice from both political parties to the Florida Legislature in 2018 if we want to continue the offensive for justice.
We sincerely appreciate your continued strong support of civil justice in Florida.